Higher Education Quick Takes
The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools is reviewing the role played by Governor Rick Scott in the decision of the University of Florida board to convince Bernie Machen to put off retirement and stay on as president, The Miami Herald reported. When Machen and the board announced he was staying, it was immediately clear that the governor was involved in the discussions, but a SACS official said at the time that there was nothing wrong with that, since it appeared that the board had played the key role. But SACS is investigating because Governor Scott has confirmed that he met with a potential candidate to replace Machen before asking asking Machen to stay. SACS officials are investigating whether the governor in that meeting overstepped his role. SACS principles call for college and university boards to have protect the independence of institutions.
The retirement package for John Sperling, the recently retired founder of the Apollo Group (parent company of the University of Phoenix) "likely won’t do the company any favors on the PR front," The Wall Street Journal reported. Sperling will receive $5 million in a "special retirement bonus," an annuity of $70,833.33 a month, ownership of two Apollo vehicles he used while he was chairman and "reasonable out-of-pocket” medical- and dental-care coverage.
A group of students and a former dean filed a complaint last week with the Education Department's Office for Civil Rights, alleging that the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill violated a series of federal laws protecting the rights of sexual assault survivors, The Huffington Post and The Daily Tar Heel student newspaper reported. Melinda Manning, the former associate dean of students who reportedly resigned over the institution's handling of sexual assault cases, said the individuals who run the campus judicial system did not receive adequate training for the job and mistreated victims, asking inappropriate questions and blaming victims. The complaint says upper-level administrators pressured Manning to underreport sexual assault statistics to the federal government and discouraged her from approaching Chancellor Holden Thorp about her concerns.
The complaint, filed on behalf of 64 assault victims, says UNC violated the Campus Sexual Assault Victims' Bill of Rights, the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Americans with Disabilities Act.
An online petition campaign organized by Avaaz.org draws attention to the plight of Syrian students who are unable to pay tuition fees, including government-sponsored students whose tuition payments have been stopped. A statement released Friday by the Minister for Universities and Science, David Willetts, asked universities and funding agencies to exercise discretion over tuition and to use hardship funds to support students when possible. The statement notes that all institutions that enroll Syrian students through the Syrian Higher Education Capacity Building Project have agreed to waive or defer fees.
Dixie State College's board has voted to request a name change to Dixie State University, but not to abandon the "Dixie" portion of its name. The institution is located in a part of Utah settled by immigrants from the South who embraced the Dixie name and Confederate imagery. As the college debating becoming a university, some affiliated with the university said that it would be a good time to change its name entirely, and to end associations that some saw as exclusionary.
Steven G. Caplin, the board chair, issued a statement: "As with stakeholders at large, the trustees saw the merits of several different naming options, and the majority preferred 'Dixie State University.' In the end the board chose to unite as one body. We unanimously stand behind the Dixie State University name and encourage all stakeholders to do the same. This is the time to combine our resources, make our best contributions, and rally around this great institution."
Roi Wilkins, a senior at the college who is African-American, told The Salt Lake Tribune that the college was ignoring the extent to which its name is associated with oppression. "I feel like they’re still trying to sweep it under the rug," he said.
Classes resume at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities this week and officials have suspended a rule that normally requires a doctor's note to miss the first day of classes, the Associated Press reported. There are so many flu cases that officials want to encourage students to stay home if they are ill.
Ghostwriting of term papers is so common in Russia that those who do the work openly advertise their services, Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty reported. A woman based in Tatarstan told the news service: "Theses start from 5,000 rubles [$165]. But it depends on how much the person can pay; the price is agreed individually. I don't copy anything from the Internet and I do my research in libraries. I care about my professional reputation; I don't want to lose clients."
Governor Jerry Brown, a California Democrat, is proposing to expand various reforms to assure speedier completion of programs at California community colleges, The Los Angeles Times reported. Brown wants students who exceed 90 credits of work to pay for the full cost of instruction, arguing that this would free up space in the crowded system. But some students say that this would punish those with double majors or who don't immediately find the field that they want to pursue.